Monday, January 31, 2011

Potent Quotables

Seulgi: "Because today is day before big holiday, I can ask permission to leave early. Do you want?"



Some fifth-graders were making fun of me because I read Korean very slowly. So, I took out a piece of paper, wrote "antidisestablishmentarianism," and challenged them to read it aloud. When they couldn't, I flashed them a smug, bitchy smile.

I'm an adult.


The Obviating Android

Many of you have already seen/read this, some of you have even posted it on my wall, but here's a fun tidit:

Robots. English-teaching robots. My sentiments can best be expressed with a poignant facial expression. You know the one. I'd post a picture of said expression, but. Yeah. Maybe next time.



The heater WOULD start playing along after the overall temperature of Ulsan gets noticeably warmer.



Another Push of the Reset Button

Today's the day. I'm going to buy a new camera. Again. Ulsan's Top People were unable, despite their best efforts, to locate the missing camera. It's okay, I'll just replace it. Dash the expense! It all boils down to necessity. I need a camera to document the rest of my time in Korea and further adventures in the future. Also, I want one. So there's that.


Last night I went bowling with Shane and Conrad. I can safely say that I'm the most inconsistent bowler ever. When I knocked over any pins, I scored no less than eight. My successful frames were almost all spares. On the other hand, there was a heavy smattering of empty frames in my game. Mikey always tried to instill the key concept of "follow-through" in my attempts at bowling (and many other sports), but it never quite stuck. Shane was better than me, but not by too much. We decided that our combined scores might almost equal one decent score. Conrad took a win with a hearty score of, like, 68 (ish?). We're teachers, not athletes.


February, The Kindest Month

On a positive note, February will most likely be a delightful month. Tomorrow marks the first day of February, right before the Lunar New Year- aka Seolnal (설날). Seolnal is a pretty big deal here. No one has explained exactly why, but I do know that all of the other Korean holidays (like Chuseok) are based around the lunar calendar, so it follows that Lunar New Year would be all kinds of important. I get a whole three days off work, making this a two-day work week. Hell yes.

I have plans to go to Seoul and snowboard. If we're being honest here, I'm being coerced into the snowboarding. I'm not a fan of cold, snow, or snow-related activities. My friends assure me it'll be "awesome" regardless. A collective of my internal representatives prefer that I stay home and read, but the minority rebels have quashed the majority in favor of quality time with friends. Damnable upstarts.

But I digress. After my vacation, I have to return to work as usual. The new term begins on February 7th and I'll have to work for some time before I get another break. Something like eight business days. Then, from the 17th until March 1st, it's Spring Break, baby. I don't actually have plans for this extended break (I get all the time off, no deskwarming, due to my insufficient time off during Winter Break. Hallelujah.) I may well keep all these days free of planned activity and indulge in some serious Me time. I do have a lot of reading to catch up on. It'd be great.

In summation:

Total work days in February: 9
Total vacation days: 19

Count. It.

Footnote: I do have to return to my regularly scheduled workweek starting March 2nd, my birthday. You win some, you lose some.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Uncertain Assertions

Today, I feel certain that I should leave Korea in August, after my one-year contract is fulfilled. I am currently disinclined to remain here for another year. Especially embittering? Lack of heating. Seriously. It's very disheartening to have to work while shivering and wearing gloves. The dress code in winter should not include a compulsory winter coat. Comfort in the workplace becomes more important to me the longer the cold front lasts.


Weekend Wrap-up. Again.

Another weekend has come and gone. This weekend was the last hurrah of fellow Hogye-resident, Sinan, before he transferred to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Korea. We gathered some troops (Sinan, myself, Shannon, Kyu, Claire, Chantelle, SarahJean, and guest appearances by Jason and Ki Dok) and celebrated. 


Took an impromptu trip to Daegu. First we went to an amazing little restaurant with an all-male staff (for no ostensible reason). Sinan and I annihilated a delightful barbecue chicken salad. It was giant; still, we conquered. I took a picture of the aftermath, but ehh, more on that later. Afterward, we headed out to somehip hop club called "Old Skool." Naturally, the King and Queen of the Club (Sinan and I), broke open the dance floor. Our group was made of he night's star performers. Obviously. Sadly, Sweet Mama MomoBear could not make it out for the duration of our stay in Daegu. With a venue move, to a club called "Frog," we were able to cross paths with the adorable Danny Kim. Much dancing ensued. Then Clair and I realized it was five in the morning and our limbs could no longer function. We crashed on a club couch for a while until the others came to the same conclusion. Typical night, really.


Everything was going swimmingly. I'd gone to Sinan's for to consult on outfits, then we met up with Jason and Shannon to take a cab to Mugeodong (Ulsan University- area). We went to "Beer Mart," a convenience store-meets bar kind of place, serving, you guessed it, beer. Claire joined us up, as did Kyu and my other Korean friend, Ki Dok. We were chatting and drinking, generaly having a good time. I took one of the funniest pictures of Jason, Claire, Shannon, and Kyu. It's all about their faces. I refused to show it to them, saying they could see it when I posted it on FaceBook [Foreshadowing]. We decided to follow up with some sweet NoreBang action. I scored a 100 on Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to do With it?" surprising no one. After an hour or so, we were prepared to hit up yet another dance club. Samsan, Beat Bar. We ran into Justin, who I met at my orientation. Dancing, dancing, short break at W Garden to protest some of the crap songs Beat Bar was spinning, return to Beat, more dancing. Eventually, it was time to call it a night. I grabbed my coat, which wasn't where I remember putting it, but no big deal. Now, when I go out, I like to travel light. I take my wallet, my phone, and in this instance, my camera. Whenever I put my coat on, I habitually check my pockets for all the appropriate items. It came to my immediate attention that something was missing. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. But where's my camera? My practically brand-new Sony Cybershot, with which I was enamored. [Sweep. Panorama.]. Gone without a trace. Also missing: the Maleficet-inspired lipstick that J.Lo sent to me and I was wearing that night to achieve a 50's pinup look. What. The. Fuck. Instant freak out. I broke up the couple macking on each other in the booth where our coats were and elicited their help in the search for my belongings. No good. I gave my name, number, and the make and model of my camera to the bar owner, begging him to call me if he found it. Sinan eventually convinced me to go home, though I was frantic like a mother who'd lost her child. Sigh. I always react rationally.


Engaged a search party of Ulsan's top people. Top People. Sinan and Kyu went around to Beat Bar, no luck. Ki Dok called the Nore Bang. Nothing. He couldn't find a number for Beer Mart, but promised to check there when he had time. If it's not a Beer Mart, well, I guess it could be at W Garden, but I really don't think so. It could be in one of the cabs we took between key parts of town, but I was never in any cab alone, so the odds that no one would have noticed a forgotten camera are minimal. In general, I felt upset and irked. I've never lost something on this level of important. I've had that other, ill-fated camera for years. It broke, but was never lost. Even phones- never lost. Sometimes, sure, I drop and damage, but I'm clumsy, not forgetful. This aspect of the incident concerned me as much as the physical loss of my new and beloved camera. It might still be found, but I don't have much hope to hold. Anyway, despite my grief, I went to dinner with Molly, Bert, Tashane, Lucas, and his friend, Chong Yi (?). These names mean nothing to you, I know. I'd make another cast of characters, but there are just so many people and the cast lists seem to jinx everything anyway. Regardless. Good people, good food. We went to Bar Somewhere to relax a little, but my head just wasn't in the game and I left early.

I have an upcoming vacation (Wednesday) and could really use a camera. I suppose, if I haven't heard anything by tonight, that I'll buy another tomorrow. I'm more upset than I should be. I get oddly attached to my personal possessions. It's not just their monetary investment and value, either. I didn't even get the chance to name him yet. Sadface. #Personalityquirks.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Potent Quotables

[The fourth-graders are sitting at their desks, chatting, and waiting for class to start.]

Jenny: "Our lesson is already finished."
Me: "So what are we doing today?"
Jenny: "I don't know."


Pop the Cork

Seulgi officially confirmed that there will be no seodang next semester. Holler. None of that tricky "after school, but not late after school" business, either. The MOE has, in fact, pulled significant funding for after school classes. The later the after school classes, the more they have to pay. Some schools are moving their 5PM-7PM classes into the 3PM- 5PM slot, which means the teacher still has after school, but the cheaper kind. Lucky me, Cheongok is doing away with seodang entirely.

I would like to give you a second KPop Moment today in celebration.

I'm pretty sure I don't have any kind of after school anymore...?


Moment of K-Pop

Girl's Generation


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Cheongok Administrators

Dear Administrators,

Your refusal to let heated air flow into the English room while the English teacher is present will negatively affect said teacher's decision to renew her contract. Yes, she is that superficial.

Miss Reedy


Oh Yeah, Also This:

Did I mention how I received some Dr. Fish treatment on Sunday? There's this place in Busan- ostensibly a coffee shop/ juice bar- where you can also order "Doctor Fish," for about 2,000 won. The treatment involves sticking your feet into a pool of water and in the water are a bunch of fish that nibble on your dead skin cells. Hot. It's a strange sensation. Like a bunch of tiny electric shocks to the feet. It's pretty cool when you get used to it.

I sure don't have pictures. This happened during the Inter-Camerum period. I should really learn to eschew cool activities when I have no camera handy.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Fly to the English World

I keep trying to upload a video of one of the plays from camp, but Blogger doesn't seem to jive well with my at-home server. I might have to put it up on Facebook. Sigh. The video features this one advanced class during camp. They performed Jack and the Beanstalk. I encouraged all the classes to use props, voices, and memorization. These kids went above and beyond, using Powerpoint as a tool to create sets as well. I can't take any kind of credit for their awesomeness, but I can (try to) show it off. 

In the meantime, let's look at a bunch of pictures from my three-week camp.

Camp was a whirlwind experience, which I followed up with a whirlwind weekend. A double dose of nore bang and dancing, in Ulsan and Busan, with co-teachers (Korean and Foreign), friends, and a badass cameo from Sweet Mama Momobear herself. I may or may not have declared myself Queen of the Club. But that's just honest, is what that is. Indisputable. 

Oh yeah, and things broke.

No one ever wants to see this on their camera's LCD screen. No idea how this happened. My camera was in my coat on Friday. That whole night, I was on the dance floor. Sans coat. I can only speculate that my coat fell on the floor and someone stepped on it. It'd be totally cool if cameras had viewfinders anymore. They don't. Bright side? It gave me an excuse to buy a shiny new camera. I went with the Sony Cybershot. I won't lie and pretend that the sweep panorama wasn't one of the predominant factors in this purchase. It looks so cool when Taylor Swift does it in the commercial. (It fully is that cool.)

Anyway, I'm mid-vacation and I intend to spend the rest of the day reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Kacie bought it for me for Christmas. Tomorrow: time for uber.belated Christmas thank-yous, cleaning, bill-paying, and laundry. Pretty mundane. Buuuuut, I'm doing all of that IN KOREA.

Envy me.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Face of Oppression

Ran into Shane while catching the 1402 to Samsan. We got shushed. Twice. By the bus driver.

That is all.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Resign or Re-sign?

It's coming time to seriously consider what I'm going to do next year. This is proving a more difficult situation than I expected.

Originally, I planned on definitely doing Korea for two years and then joining the Peace Corps after. When that was over, maybe I'd do some traveling, maybe I'd go home and find a steady job.

After I'd been here a bit, I wasn't sure i could even make it a full year.I briefly considered bailing after six months. Then I realized I'd look back on the experience and regret not finishing my contract. So, I decided to do the full year, then go home.

Now, I'm not sure. Should I really go home after one year? I could stay for two. There are some flaws here, but the job is easy and it has its great moments. Plus, I'm meeting so many interesting people and the experience is so singular. The things I'm not enjoying about Korea can probably be chalked up to the wrong attitude. If I immerse myself completely into everything this has to offer, would I want to give it up so quickly? I think I'm resisting the changes that could arise if I let them. Maybe I should let go, really let go, and see what happens.

And. What do I do when I go home? If I still can't find a job, if I have to live with my parents again. I'm not knocking their hospitality- my mother can do a mean load of laundry- but I don't want to be 24 without any real prospects. If I stay, it'll look even better on my resume and I can save even more money, which will be helpful if I really want to try to move to NYC once I do go home.

Meh, everything is still so up in the air. I change my mind at least once a day on the subject. I have time to sort this out, but I don't know what I'll eventually decide.


Random Tidbits

I now regularly wear leggings. Not as pants, no. Never again, but as fashionable leg-coverings. Because I wasn't able to leave my skirts and dresses behind when the seasons changed.

Additionally, I've started wearing fake eyelashes more and more. It's a growing addiction. I'm almost to the point where I want to wear them every day. I may be passing this addiction on to Labeccs. I applied some falsies on her last night. Dangerous ground.


Gritty Reboot

So the only real Winter Vacation I ended up having was from my blog. It's a sick, sad shame because I adore this blog. It's keeping me sane. Unfortunately, I haven't had countless hours of nothing to do at school. My blog has thusly taken a hit. Imagine- I actually have to work all day during my Winter Camps.

Living the dream.
That said, Winter Camps have been really fun. The one week camp I had at my school involved really important activities like "Pin the Glasses on the Harry Potter" and making magic wands. Also, watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with a bunch of adorable third graders.

Pros of Cheongok Winter Camp: Total creative freedom. It was basically just like seodang, but with cute third graders. Every day that week, I worked from 9- 12.20 and then went home. I reserved at least 30 minutes a day for watching Harry Potter and filled the rest of the time with games, crafts, puzzles, et cetera. My philosophy about this camp was that kids study hard enough as is, this is their Winter Break, which they spend by going to school some more. I'm going to make it fun. As fun as I can anyway. we learned words like "dragon, wizard, witch, potion-" you know, all things magical. The kids really enjoyed it, I think. The girl pictured is a savant. She knows everything Harry Potter. It really helps to have one student who's on board and can help you when other students have no idea what you're saying.

I sure did make them learn "Wingardium Leviosa."

Sidenote- I got to give the kids English names. Some of them had names ready, but others ended up with names like Janet, Kacie, Mandy, Sarah, Ford, Madan, and Romo. Absolutely random nomenclature. Nobody wanted to be called JC or Mark. Burn. The kid I forced to be "Madan" was none too pleased. Buuut, the kid I dubbed "Romo" derived a lot of pleasure from his name. Every time I called roll, he had a giant smile on his face. Cute kid.

Another pro- I fully did a House Cup deal. Every activity involved points and those kids strove hard to get points. They even tried to bribe teacher. And it totally worked. I gave one point for every orange received, five points any time someone refilled my water. What? Unethical? You shoulda been there. Anyway, the two main teams were snake and lion. Snake totally won. It was close, but they pulled it off on the last day by kicking ass at a super.difficult wordsearch race. Go Slytherin?

Cons: I was several measures of sick the entire week. I lost my voice completely within an hour of working every day. The kids thought this was hilarious. I'd be husking out in a scratchy whisper as they ran amok in the Dream Center. Awesome. Third graders can be really difficult to keep under thumb. One day they just didn't show up for the first 40 minutes of class. I had no idea where they were or what to do. I called the office and talked to Jaehong- the only other person in school- and he went on a mad dash looking for them. He made an announcement over the PA and everything. He eventually found them engaged in  a snowball fight outside. Seriously.

Overall, a good time.

I'm about to start my third and final week at my second Winter Camp, a whole different ball game. This camp I attend 8 hours a day, but I only teach 6 classes (two planning periods a day). There's a morning session, a two hour lunch break (hell yes!), an afternoon session. It's a much more structured experience. There are five other Foreign Teachers working in the camp, Mike, Val, Sinan, Adam, and Canada Matt (all from Hogye). We each teach different classes. There are games, conversation classes, songs, and then my class- plays. Teaching kids plays is a hit-or-miss experience. It's all word-based, so if the students can't read well, they're screwed, which in turn means I'm screwed. This one girl cries a lot because she's so stressed out about speaking English. The K-Teachers tell me not to pay attention, she's just a crier.

Pros: Having a lot more structure makes lesson planning very easy. Also, I have a different set of kids for every 40-minute period, so I only have to fill a short span of time. Some of the kids get very into the plays, which is a lotmore rewarding than I ever would have thought. It's touching, really, when the kids get into it.

We only spend about three or four days per play, but some of the students manage to memorize, add actions, props, and even sets. Nerds.

We have Special Days, too. Last Friday was Market Day. We taught the children about buying fruits at a market and then, in fact, sold fruits in the hallways all market-style. And the director of the camp didn't skimp out on the fruits. We had bananas, oranges, kiwi, pineapples, mangoes, cherries, pomegranates, and even avocados. The best part was that we got to keep the leftover fruits. Service. Yahtzee! This past Friday, we had Cinema Day. We rented out a theater at Lotte Cinema in Samsan and watched Megamind. The movie started out in Korean. Kinda cool experience. You never think to appreciate the nuances of the animation until that's all you can understand. Still, the director wanted the movie to be in English, since it's English camp, so half and hour in, the movie stopped and we had a break while the person who ran the film switched it to the English version with Korean subtitles. What did we do during that break? Student singing contest. Everyone was a winner, as it turned out. Small cop-out, but kids are hard to please. I have some video of this, but Blogger is having issues uploading my vids, so the songs will have to be featured in a later post. Instead, pictures!

It's a 3-D film. Hence the glasses.

Sinan and Me. One little girl told me I
looked sexy. Weird moment.

Matt "MC'd." You know. Kinda.

Adorable girls during the singing contest.

Additionally, it's a real delight to have other foreign teachers at the school. During break times, we just chat and hangout. We go to lunch together and walk home. It's adorable. One time, the guys were talking about working out and how many pushups they can do, blah blah blah. I challenged them to do it with Kae Hyun (or camp's petite and fiesty director) on their backs. Kae Hyun thought this was an awesome idea, so she ended up crawling on top of Mike and Adam as they did pushups. Middle of the workday. The other Korean teachers clapped and cheered them on. They call this "work" in Korea.

Cons: The only downside is when the kids just don't understand or get too nervous. Sometimes, teaching the plays is like pulling teeth. The students can't always read or comprehend the stories. I've been trying to pick easy stories that they might possibly know. I've done  Little Red Riding Hood, The Frog Prince, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Jack and the Beanstalk,  and I'll be doing Goldilocks and the Three Bears  and The Gingerbread Man this week. (Each class will have learned three plays, but the classes are on different levels, so the advanced kids get slightly harder plays than the other students.) While some of the students go above and beyond with their performances, there are others who just stand there, scripts in hand, and "read" the words. By "read," I mean that they speak so quietly, I don't even realize they're speaking. It's tough.

Even though the camps involve a lot more work and responsibility on my part, I prefer them to regular school. With my current camp, I always have a teacher in the room, but the lessons are completely mine. They're only there to help translate. Often, during the normal term, I feel a bit like a showpiece or a novelty. I'm there, sometimes I'll yap out a few words, but I'm not a teacher, not really. I'm not trying to criticize, I am enjoying my time here, but I don't always understand what purpose I serve.

Anyway, I have one more week of Winter Camp and then a three day vacation. Then it's back to the regular grind. I'm apprehensive. I'll have a new coteacher (Goodby, Seulgi), new books, and some new students. There will also be a new wave of foreigners coming in. That might be cool. Colie's coming (Nicole Henninger, a high school-era best friend), but she'll be in Busan, I think. Micki's going to visit (also a high school bestie), which I can't wait for, and there's even a proposed visit from Kacie and Mandy. Those last parts should prove to be excellent. We'll see about the rest...